Martial arts films are a subgenre of action films, which feature numerous martial arts fights between characters. These fights are usually the films' primary appeal and entertainment value, and often are a method of storytelling and character expression and development. Martial arts are frequently featured in training scenes and other sequences in addition to fights. Martial arts films commonly include other types of action, such as hand-to-hand combat, stuntwork, chases, and gunfights.
As with other action films, martial arts films are dominated by action to varying degrees; many martial arts films have only a minimal plot and amount of character development and focus almost exclusively on the action, while other martial arts films have more creative and complex plots and characters along with action scenes. Films of the latter type are generally considered to be artistically superior films, but many films of the former type are commercially successful and well received by fans of the genre. One of the earliest Hollywood movies to employ the use of martial arts was the 1955 film Bad Day at Black Rock.
Martial arts films contain many characters who are martial artists and these roles are often played by actors who are real martial artists. If not, actors frequently train in preparation for their roles or the action director may rely more on stylized action or film making tricks like camera angles, editing, doubles, undercranking, wire work and computer-generated imagery. Trampolines and springboards can also be used to increase the height of jumps. These techniques are sometimes used by real martial artists as well, depending on the style of action in the film.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the most visible presence of martial arts films was the hundreds of English-dubbed kung fu and ninja films produced by the Shaw Brothers, Godfrey Ho and other Hong Kong producers. These films were widely broadcast on North American television on weekend timeslots that were often colloquially known as Kung Fu Theater, Black Belt Theater or variations thereof. Inclusive in this list of films are commercial classics like The Big Boss, Drunken Master and One Armed Boxer.
Martial arts films have been produced all over the world, but the genre has been dominated by Hong Kong action cinema, peaking from 1971 with the rise of Bruce Lee until the mid-1990s with a general decline in the industry. Other notable figures in the genre include Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao and Donnie Yen.
Sonny Chiba has appeared with karate and jidaigeki from Japan of the 1970s. Hollywood has also participated in the genre with actors such as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee), Wesley Snipes, Gary Daniels, Mark Dacascos and Jason Statham. In the 2000s, Thailand's film industry became an international force in the genre with the films of Tony Jaa and the cinema of Vietnam followed suit with The Rebel and Clash. In more recent years, the Indonesian film industry has offered Merantau (2009) and The Raid: Redemption (2011).
Women have also played key roles in the genre, including such actresses as Michelle Yeoh, Angela Mao and Cynthia Rothrock. In addition, western animation has ventured into the genre with the most successful effort being the internationally hailed DreamWorks Animation film franchise, Kung Fu Panda, starring Jack Black and Angelina Jolie.
In the Chinese-speaking world, martial arts films are commonly divided into two subcategories: the wuxia period films (武俠片), and the more modern Kung fu films (功夫片, best epitomized in the films of Bruce Lee).
Kung fu films are a significant movie genre in themselves. Like westerns for Americans, they have become an identity of Chinese cinema. As the most prestigious movie type in Chinese film history, kung fu movies were among the first Chinese films produced and the wuxia period films (武俠片) are the original form of Chinese kung fu films. The wuxia period films came into vogue due to the thousands of years popularity of wuxia novels (武俠小說). For example, the wuxia novels of Jin Yong and Gu Long directly led to the prevalence of wuxia period films. Outside of the Chinese speaking world the most famous wuxia film made was the Ang Lee film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was based on the Wang Dulu series of wuxia novels: it earned four Academy Awards, including one for Best Foreign Film.
Martial arts westerns are usually American films inexpensively filmed in Southwestern United States locations, transposing martial arts themes into an "old west" setting; e.g., Red Sun with Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune.
Drunken Monkey is a 2003 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by and starring Lau Kar-leung. It was the first kung fu film released by the Shaw Brothers Studio in two decades. This was the final film Kar-leung directed before dying on June 25, 2013.Hanuman and the Five Riders
Hanuman and the Five Riders (หนุมาน พบ 5 ไอ้มดแดง - Hanuman pob Har Aimoddaeng - literally "Hanuman meet the Five Ant Men") is a tokusatsu superhero film produced in 1975 by Chaiyo Productions of Thailand. Chaiyo's own Kamen Rider film, half of it uses footage from the Kamen Rider X film Five Riders Vs. King Dark.
Although it has never been released in Japan, Kamen Rider fans in Japan refer to it unofficially as Hanuman and the 5 Kamen Riders (ハヌマーンと5人の仮面ライダー, Hanumān to Gonin no Kamen Raidā).
The film teams the first five Kamen Riders (Ichigo, Nigo, V3, Riderman and X) with the Hindu god Hanuman (fresh from his appearance in The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army) against X's adversary King Dark (who appears in his regular giant moving statue form, and alternately in a human-sized form), who drinks the fresh blood of young women. He captures a scientist and his girlfriend, and threatens to drain her of her blood unless he use his technology to create an army of mutant animal men to confront the five Riders.
Unlike Chaiyo's two official co-productions with Tsuburaya Productions in 1974 (namely The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. the Monster Army and Jumborg Ace & Giant), this production was unauthorized by Toei Company, Ltd., which produced the Kamen Rider shows. Chaiyo had initially approached Toei, who turned down their plans for producing their own Kamen Rider movie.Heatseeker (film)
Heatseeker is a science fiction-martial arts film by Albert Pyun. The film stars Keith Cooke as the lead actor and co-stars Norbert Weisser, Thom Mathews and Tim Thomerson.Hong Kong action cinema
Hong Kong action cinema is the principal source of the Hong Kong film industry's global fame. It combines elements from the action film, as codified by Hollywood, with Chinese storytelling, aesthetic traditions and filmmaking techniques, to create a culturally distinctive form that nevertheless has a wide transcultural appeal. In recent years, the flow has reversed somewhat, with American and European action films being heavily influenced by Hong Kong genre conventions.
The first Hong Kong action films favoured the wuxia style, emphasizing mysticism and swordplay, but this trend was politically suppressed in the 1930s and replaced by kung fu films that depicted more down-to-earth unarmed martial arts, often featuring folk hero Wong Fei Hung. Post-war cultural upheavals led to a second wave of wuxia films with highly acrobatic violence, followed by the emergence of the grittier kung fu films for which the Shaw Brothers studio became best known.
The 1970s saw a resurgence in kung fu films during the rise and sudden death of Bruce Lee. He was succeeded in the 1980s by Jackie Chan—who popularized the use of comedy, dangerous stunts, and modern urban settings in action films—and Jet Li, whose authentic wushu skills appealed to both eastern and western audiences. The innovative work of directors and producers like Tsui Hark and John Woo introduced further variety (for example, gunplay, triads, heroic bloodshed, and the supernatural). An exodus by many leading figures to Hollywood in the 1990s coincided with a downturn in the industry.Inferno (1997 film)
Inferno (also released as Operation Cobra) is a 1997 feature film directed by Fred Olen Ray starring Don Wilson, Deepti Bhatnagar and R. Madhavan. Evan Lurie, Michael Cavanaugh and Tané McClure appear in other pivotal roles.Ken (film)
The Sword (剣, Ken) is a 1964 Japanese film directed by Kenji Misumi. From a screenplay by Kazuro Funabashi, based upon the short story Ken (Sword) by Yukio Mishima.Kung Fu Chefs
Kung Fu Chefs (traditional Chinese: 功夫廚神; simplified Chinese: 功夫厨神; pinyin: GōngFū ChǔShén; Jyutping: Gung1 Fu1 Cu4 San4) is a 2009 Hong Kong action film directed by Ken Yip, starring Sammo Hung, Louis Fan, Vanness Wu, Sammo Hung's real life son Timmy Hung, Ku Feng and Lee Hoi San. This was Lee Hoi San's final film appearance. This film was shot with a low budget.Legend of a Fighter
Legend of a Fighter is a 1982 Hong Kong martial arts film based on the story of Chinese martial artist Huo Yuanjia (Cantonese: Fok Yuen-kap). Directed by Yuen Woo-ping, the film starred Bryan Leung as the lead character.Princess and the Seven Kung Fu Masters
Princess and the Seven Kung Fu Masters is a 2013 Hong Kong martial arts comedy film directed by Wong Jing.Shaolin
Shaolin may refer to:
Shaolin Monastery, or Shaolin Temple, a Buddhist monastery in Henan province, China
Shaolin Kung Fu, a martial art associated with the monastery in Henan, China
Southern Shaolin Monastery, an alleged Buddhist monastery that once stood in Fujian province, China
Sándor Liu Shaolin, a Hungarian short track speed skaterThe Butterfly Murders
The Butterfly Murders is a 1979 Hong Kong wuxia film directed by Tsui Hark. It has elements of history and a murder mystery. The film is not widely available on tape or DVD in the West (there is a German and a French DVD release), though there was a Hong Kong release.The Last Eve
The Last Eve is a 2005 action film directed by Young Man Kang, a Korean-born filmmaker who made his U.S. directing debut Cupid's Mistake (2001).The Naval Commandos
Naval Commandos is a Shaw Brothers film directed by Chang Cheh, who is famous for his martial arts cinematography, but ventured into military combat action with the production of this war movie based upon the War of Resistance/WWII (1937-45).The Rebel Intruders
The Rebel Intruders (also known as Killer Army) is a Shaw Brothers film directed by Chang Cheh and starring the Venom Mob.Throw Down (film)
Throw Down (traditional Chinese: 柔道龍虎榜; simplified Chinese: 柔道龙虎榜) is a 2004 Hong Kong martial arts film directed by Johnnie To and starring Louis Koo, Aaron Kwok, Cherrie Ying and Tony Leung Ka-fai. The film was one of To's most personal to date; he dedicated it to the late Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and, in making it, had drawn upon elements of Kurosawa's debut feature, Sanshiro Sugata. Throw Down had its premiere at the 61st Venice International Film Festival.Vengeance (1970 film)
Vengeance (報仇; original Hong Kong title, Bao chou) is a 1970 kung fu film directed by Chang Cheh, and starring David Chiang and Ti Lung. The film is set in Peking circa 1930, and centers on a revenge plight of Chiang. The movie has little actual kung fu and instead is heavily laden with knife fighting and judo.
At the 16th Asian Film Festival, Director Chang Cheh won the Best Director Award, David Chiang won the Best Actor Award and received Asia's first Movie King Award, and Vengeance went on to win the Best Movie Award and the Iron Triangle.
|By movement |
|By demographic groups|
|Full contact / combat sports|
|Self-defense / combatives|
|Eclectic / hybrids|